Walking In the Lune Valley and the Howgills: A Sample Route

A sample route from Walking In the Lune Valley and the Howgills by Dennis and Jan Kelsall. Enjoy this walk up Randygill Top in Ravenstonedale.

The area of the Lune valley, nestled between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, begs discovery and presents no shortage of inviting walks to suit every taste and inclination. The selection of walks in this guide reveals its many facets, with routes that clamber onto the hills overlooking the main valley, delve into the tributary dales that feed it, or simply follow the River Lune itself. Further downstream the routes wander the two promontories between which the Lune finally meets the sea near Lancaster, seeking out the many picturesque and interesting corners there. In some walks, aspects of the area’s rich history are revealed, while few rambles lack opportunities to observe wildlife at any time of year. Walking is one of the best forms of physical exercise, and in a setting such as this, it cannot help but be good for the mind and soul too.

WALK 1: Weasdale and Randygill Top

from Walking In the Lune Valley and the Howgills by Dennis and Jan Kelsall.

StartWath (NY 685 050)
Distance8 miles (12.9km)
Time4¼hr
TerrainRough tracks and upland trods
Height gain560m (1837ft)
MapsExplorer OL19 – Howgill Fells and Upper Eden Valley
RefreshmentsLune Spring Garden Centre café at Newbiggin-on-Lune
ToiletsNone
ParkingRoadside parking at start
NoteThe route is not recommended for inexperienced walkers in poor visibility, when map and compass are essential.
M001

All but one of the Howgills’ major streams find their way into the Lune, although the one credited as being the river’s source, on the basis that it has the longest passage to the sea, is Dale Gill. It seeps out of the rock below the summit of Green Bell and flows down to join the rivulets bubbling from Newbiggin’s springs. Aficionados determined to walk the river in its entirety will follow the course of the peaty stream off the hill. However, more satisfying for those appreciative of striking landscape (and a drier path) is this more circuitous route, which ascends the eastern ridge defining Bowderdale and returns from Green Bell along its northern snout.

Leave the corner of the southbound slip road by its junction with the A685 at Wath, following a narrow lane signed as a Public Way. The tarmac ends at the entrance to , but the way continues through a gate ahead as an intermittently indistinct track across rough pasture. Eventually reaching the restored farmhouse at Cow Bank, it resumes as a lane. Descend towards the Weasdale Beck valley, but after 100m turn sharp right to double back across rough grazing, meeting a wall.

Follow the wall right, in time passing through a gate out of the intake. Where the wall later swings to the left, pick up a trod that rises across the eastern flank of >span class="BODY-Route-highlight">Hooksey above Weasdale. Gaining height, the vista opens across to the Northern Pennines, while the buttress of West Grain divides the deepening valley ahead.

As the trod fades, maintain an upward slant, soon joining a more distinct quad track. Continue along the rising crest, the views revealing the complex geography of the ridges and valleys of the Howgill massif, while the more distant scene ranges from Lakeland, on the one hand, to Wild Boar Fell. Beyond the high point, the ground abruptly falls to the narrow saddle of Leathgill Bridge. The steep climb beyond is soon accomplished, the gradient suddenly easing to reveal a small pile of stones marking the summit of Randygill Top.

The greatest elevation of the walk, Randygill Top, is a marvellous vantage point. The panorama encompasses most of the major Lakeland peaks, while in the other direction, two of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks are visible – the third, Pen-y-ghent, hides behind Baugh Fell. Cross Fell, the highest top of the Northern Pennines, lies to the north beyond the Eden Valley, but, being undistinguished by a transmitter, it is less distinctive than the nearer Great Dunn Fell.

A distinct trod descends north-east to another narrow waist of high ground separating the head of Weasdale from Stockless Gill. Gently climbing, carry on for another ½ mile (800m). Having passed the falling promontory of West Grain over to the left, watch for the path dividing. That to the left contours the hillside above the head of Great Swindale, while the path ahead rises to the summit of Green Bell.

On the summit of Green BellFrom the flanks of Green Bell into Great Swindale

Although slightly lower than Randygill Top, Green Bell boasts a trig pillar. For survey purposes, it offered a better prospect to the eastern and northern hills, and it too is a grand tarrying place from which to enjoy the landscape.

To find the source of the Lune, keep with the path ahead, losing height fairly rapidly north-eastwards towards the much lower top of Knoutberry. As the gradient eases, bear off left, passing the ruin of a sheepfold and walking a short distance beyond it to find a couple of springs seeping from the ground.

Dale Gill is probably the least remarkable of the valleys cleaving the Howgills, with Langdale, Bowderdale and Weasdale all possessing much greater scenic appeal. But those wishing to trace the river’s course will find a developing path above its right bank to take them down the valley. Later becoming a track, it eventually hits the lane just west of Greenside.

The way back to Wath, however, drops along the ridge running north from Green Bell. To avoid the climb back to the summit, contour north-west around the steep flank of the hill for ¼ mile (400m) to intersect the main path from the summit at a waypost. If you have time to spare, it is worth wandering back a short distance around the north-western slope of Green Bell for the views into the head of Great Swindale.

Return to the waypost and take the leftmost of the two descending paths, which bypasses left of Stwarth. Stay with the left branch past two more forks, and a track soon develops that winds above the intake wall and finally meets a lane east of Weasdale.

To the left the lane heads down into the small settlement. There, take a bridleway on the right, which leads to Weasdale Nurseries. Keep ahead through a gate beside the front porch of Low Weasdale Cottage, walking forward through a second gate to join Weasdale Beck. Over a footbridge, continue through a gate beside a barn, remaining briefly with the river before moving away across the fields towards the house at Gars. Leave the corner of the penultimate field through the left gate, walking across to a small gate in the property’s rear wall. The Right of Way winds through the yard, or, alternatively, follow the boundary left to the lane. Turn right back to Wath.

Fancy some more Walking in the Lune Valley and the Howgills?

The guidebook to Walking In the Lune Valley and the Howgills by Dennis and Jan Kelsall is available now.

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Dennis Kelsall A

Dennis Kelsall

Having followed a career in Human Resource management through industry, local government and private consultancy, Dennis Kelsall was led into outdoor writing with a Cicerone commission for a guide to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, an area he'd loved since childhood. Inevitably, the constraints of the day job proved too onerous and, joining the Outdoor Writers Guild (as it then was), he became established as a full-time freelance writer and photographer.

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Jan Kelsall A

Jan Kelsall

After completing a degree in psychology and sociology, Jan Kelsall embarked upon a local government career, where she met her husband Dennis. A shared passion for walking and the countryside led to a first commission with Cicerone for a guide to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and she eventually abandoned the security of employment to concentrate on the outdoors. Although based in Lancashire, their collaborative projects have since taken them the length and breadth of Britain.

View Articles and Books by Jan Kelsall

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